Now that iPhone supports 3G, what is there to pick on?

Fortune ran an interesting article about how the 3G iPhone may finally put a dent in Verizon's wireless business now that Apple has announced it sold 1 million 3G iPhones in three days.

The magazine pointed out that last year Verizon's sales had some challenging weeks after AT&T and Apple released the 2G version of the iPhone but its sales rebounded quickly. This year, Verizon is competing against a phone that is significantly cheaper because of subsidies, faster and attracts more high-end users. And it doesn't help Verizon that the Apple iPhone 3G is selling like hotcakes despite the faltering economy.

Indeed, it's interesting to note that AT&T competitors don't have the lack of 3G connectivity in the iPhone to kick around anymore. That was always the biggest complaint about the device. What drawback will they try to pick on next?

Speaking of being picked on, earlier this week I pondered in writing whether devices would be ready in time for Sprint's commercial launch of WiMAX in Baltimore some time in September (Xohm President Barry West recently quipped at the Centrino 2 launch event that the launch date will happen some time between Sept. 1-30). Some reliable folks close to Sprint assured me there would be plenty of devices available at launch, despite the fact that we haven't seen devices like the Nokia N810 obtain WiMAX Forum certification yet. But Sprint is going to launch devices with or without the WiMAX Forum's certification sticker because 99 percent of what that certification sticker entails was designed by Sprint and its partners in the first place. And these devices have been running in Sprint's own testing lab for some time. Moreover, Sprint's influence through its vendors is the primary reason we saw the 2.5 GHz band certified first in the WiMAX Forum and not the 3.5 GHz band, despite the fact that a number of European operators own spectrum in that band. By the way, the WiMAX Forum says it will announce a number of new certified devices within the next 90 days.

And when it comes to Sprint, you have to wonder if the company is kicking itself for making deals with all of these affiliates in the late 1990s. The deals were heralded then as a smart way for the company to expand its CDMA services without having to build out certain areas itself. But then the merger with Nextel was announced in 2004 and the lawsuits were flying from all of those affiliates as they claimed the deal threatened their exclusivity in offering Sprint-branded services. Sprint ended up shelling out millions to buy these companies to make the problems go away.

Sprint is now seeing the same issue play itself out with its planned WiMAX joint venture with Clearwire. iPCS, Sprint's largest affiliate, is seeking a permanent injunction against the WiMAX joint venture until its affiliate agreements have been modified with Sprint. Maybe Sprint can successfully argue that WiMAX isn't a competitor to the cellular market since it's coming to market with a mobile broadband service that includes unsubsidized devices and open access, much like WiFi. After all, Sprint will be offering traditional cellular services in the same markets Clearwire will offer WiMAX. Then again, many devices will be dual-mode WiMAX/CDMA devices to compensate for the sparse WiMAX coverage.--Lynnette

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